By Toshi Abe, VP of Membership
The JACL faces many challenges in the coming year, and JACL staff and board members are working to fulfill our mission as one of the premier civil rights organizations in the country.
One of the biggest challenges we face in JACL is our declining membership base. We are working to reverse that by trying to find ways to bring more value to being a JACL member. This past year, we completed an agreement with the Japanese American National Museum, and now JACL members may visit JANM for free. If you are a Thousand Club member, you received a copy of a wonderful book, “Twice Heroes: America’s Nisei Veterans of WWII and Korea,” by Tom Graves. The book was also made available from the author’s website at a discount for JACL members only. We plan to do more this coming year to bring more value to you for being a member, and we welcome your suggestions.
This past year, we hired Matthew Walters, membership coordinator. Matt has quickly come up to speed and has already brought about many changes to the membership department. If you receive his chapter reports, you’ll have noticed that you are receiving them in a new format, which I hope you find more user friendly. He and Tomiko Ismail are doing a great job handling the duties of the membership department.
We will also continue to hold conference calls with interested chapters to discuss membership concerns. We learned quite a bit from our last call. One thing we learned was the importance of the chapter making a personal contact with their lapsed or soon-to-be-lapsed members. The personal touch seems to work more often than not. Another good idea we heard was to gift a membership to your non-JACL guest speakers (who live locally) at chapter events. These new members often become engaged members. Our next membership call is in February, and we look forward to having your chapter call in.
This year, we are also hoping to roll out a program that will foster chapter development. We would like to develop a set of practices for chapters to use that would increase the chapters’ value to the communities they are located in.
At the National Convention in San Jose this past year, I met San Francisco Chapter board member Haruka Roudebush, and I learned about the Nakayoshi Project. The program is made up of young professionals who meet and hold a number of events for the community, often on a monthly basis. The events involve educational activities, community service and social get-togethers. The program originated as a project of the NCWNP District and has since evolved into a financially independent program that no longer requires district help. If approved, we’ll begin by holding workshops in each district to introduce the program. By applying their model to JACL chapter development, it could, with National JACL resources, help struggling chapters improve.
I also want to recognize our youth and young professional members, who are the future leaders of our organization and our community. We received a very generous grant from the Coulter Foundation, in large part because the grantee was impressed by the energy and spirit they observed in our youth at the San Jose convention.
Finally, thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who support JACL, whether it’s by renewing your membership, giving to our annual fund drive or volunteering. My best wishes to all of you for a prosperous and happy new year.